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  • Who writes history? The fight to commemorate a massacre by the Texas #rangers

    In 1918, a state-sanctioned vigilante force killed 15 unarmed Mexicans in #Porvenir. When their descendants applied for a historical marker a century later, they learned that not everyone wants to remember one of Texas’ darkest days.

    The name of the town was Porvenir, or “future.” In the early morning hours of January 28, 1918, 15 unarmed Mexicans and Mexican Americans were awakened by a state-sanctioned vigilante force of Texas Rangers, U.S. Army cavalry and local ranchers. The men and boys ranged in age from 16 to 72. They were taken from their homes, led to a bluff over the Rio Grande and shot from 3 feet away by a firing squad. The remaining residents of the isolated farm and ranch community fled across the river to Mexico, where they buried the dead in a mass grave. Days later, the cavalry returned to burn the abandoned village to the ground.

    These, historians broadly agree, are the facts of what happened at Porvenir. But 100 years later, the meaning of those facts remains fiercely contested. In 2015, as the centennial of the massacre approached, a group of historians and Porvenir descendants applied for and was granted a Texas Historical Commission (THC) marker. After a three-year review process, the THC approved the final text in July. A rush order was sent to the foundry so that the marker would be ready in time for a Labor Day weekend dedication ceremony planned by descendants. Then, on August 3, Presidio County Historical Commission Chair Mona Blocker Garcia sent an email to the THC that upended everything. Though THC records show that the Presidio commission had been consulted throughout the marker approval process, Garcia claimed to be “shocked” that the text was approved. She further asserted, without basis, that “the militant Hispanics have turned this marker request into a political rally and want reparations from the federal government for a 100-year-old-plus tragic event.”

    Four days later, Presidio County Attorney Rod Ponton sent a follow-up letter. Without identifying specific errors in the marker text, he demanded that the dedication ceremony be canceled and the marker’s production halted until new language could be agreed upon. Ponton speculated, falsely, that the event was planned as a “major political rally” for Beto O’Rourke with the participation of La Raza Unida founding member José Ángel Gutiérrez, neither of whom was involved. Nonetheless, THC History Programs Director Charles Sadnick sent an email to agency staff the same day: “After getting some more context about where the marker sponsor may be coming from, we’re halting production on the marker.”

    The American Historical Association quickly condemned the THC’s decision, as did the office of state Senator José Rodríguez, a Democrat whose district includes both Presidio County and El Paso, where the ceremony was to be held. Historians across the country also spoke out against the decision. Sarah Zenaida Gould, director of the Museo del Westside in San Antonio and cofounder of Latinos in Heritage Conservation, responded in an email to the agency that encapsulates the views of many of the historians I interviewed: “Halting the marker process to address this statement as though it were a valid concern instead of a dog whistle is insulting to all people of color who have personally or through family history experienced state violence.”

    How did a last-gasp effort, characterized by factual errors and inflammatory language, manage to convince the state agency for historic preservation to reverse course on a marker three years in the making and sponsored by a young Latina historian with an Ivy League pedigree and Texas-Mexico border roots? An Observer investigation, involving dozens of interviews and hundreds of emails obtained through an open records request, reveals a county still struggling to move on from a racist and violent past, far-right amateur historians sowing disinformation and a state agency that acted against its own best judgment.

    The Porvenir massacre controversy is about more than just the fate of a single marker destined for a lonely part of West Texas. It’s about who gets to tell history, and the continuing relevance of the border’s contested, violent and racist past to events today.

    Several rooms in Benita Albarado’s home in Uvalde are almost overwhelmed by filing cabinets and stacks of clipboards, the ever-growing archive of her research into what happened at Porvenir. For most of her life, Benita, 74, knew nothing about the massacre. What she did know was that her father, Juan Flores, had terrible nightmares, and that in 1950 he checked himself in to a state mental hospital for symptoms that today would be recognized as PTSD. When she asked her mother what was wrong with him, she always received the same vague response: “You don’t understand what he’s been through.”

    In 1998, Benita and her husband, Buddy, began tracing their family trees. Benita was perplexed that she couldn’t find any documentation about her grandfather, Longino Flores. Then she came across the archival papers of Harry Warren, a schoolteacher, lawyer and son-in-law of Tiburcio Jáquez, one of the men who was murdered. Warren had made a list of the victims, and Longino’s name was among them. Warren also described how one of his students from Porvenir had come to his house the next morning to tell him what happened, and then traveled with him to the massacre site to identify the bodies, many of which were so mutilated as to be virtually unrecognizable. Benita immediately saw the possible connection. Her father, 12 at the time, matched Warren’s description of the student.

    Benita and Buddy drove from Uvalde to Odessa, where her father lived, with her photocopied papers. “Is that you?” she asked. He said yes. Then, for the first time in 80 years, he began to tell the story of how he was kidnapped with the men, but then sent home because of his age; he was told that the others were only going to be questioned. To Benita and Buddy’s amazement, he remembered the names of 12 of the men who had been murdered. They were the same as those in Harry Warren’s papers. He also remembered the names of the ranchers who had shown up at his door. Some of those, including the ancestors of prominent families still in Presidio County, had never been found in any document.

    Talking about the massacre proved healing for Flores. His nightmares stopped. In 2000, at age 96, he decided that he wanted to return to Porvenir. Buddy drove them down an old mine road in a four-wheel-drive truck. Flores pointed out where his old neighbors used to live, even though the buildings were gone. He guided Buddy to the bluff where the men were killed — a different location than the one commonly believed by local ranchers to be the massacre site. His memory proved to be uncanny: At the bluff, the family discovered a pre-1918 military bullet casing, still lying on the Chihuahuan desert ground.

    Benita and Buddy began advocating for a historical marker in 2000, soon after their trip to Porvenir. “A lot of people say that this was a lie,” Buddy told me. “But if you’ve got a historical marker, the state has to acknowledge what happened.” Their efforts were met by resistance from powerful ranching families, who held sway over the local historical commission. The Albarados had already given up when they met Monica Muñoz Martinez, a Yale graduate student from Uvalde, who interviewed them for her dissertation. In 2013, Martinez, by then an assistant professor at Brown University, co-founded Refusing to Forget, a group of historians aiming to create broader public awareness of border violence, including Porvenir and other extrajudicial killings of Mexicans by Texas Rangers during the same period. The most horrific of these was La Matanza, in which dozens of Mexicans and Mexican Americans were murdered in the Rio Grande Valley in 1915.

    In 2006, the THC created the Undertold Markers program, which seemed tailor-made for Porvenir. According to its website, the program is designed to “address historical gaps, promote diversity of topics, and proactively document significant underrepresented subjects or untold stories.” Unlike the agency’s other marker programs, anyone can apply for an undertold marker, not just county historical commissions. Martinez’s application for a Porvenir massacre marker was accepted in 2015.

    Though the approval process for the Porvenir marker took longer than usual, by the summer of 2018 everything appeared to be falling into place. On June 1, Presidio County Historical Commission chair Garcia approved the final text. (Garcia told me that she thought she was approving a different text. Her confusion is difficult to understand, since the text was attached to the digital form she submitted approving it.) Martinez began coordinating with the THC and Arlinda Valencia, a descendant of one of the victims, to organize a dedication ceremony in El Paso.
    “They weren’t just simple farmers. I seriously doubt that they were just killed for no reason.”

    In mid-June, Valencia invited other descendants to the event and posted it on Facebook. She began planning a program to include a priest’s benediction, a mariachi performance and brief remarks by Martinez, Senator Rodríguez and a representative from the THC. The event’s climax would be the unveiling of the plaque with the names of the 15 victims.

    Then the backlash began.

    “Why do you call it a massacre?” is the first thing Jim White III said over the phone when I told him I was researching the Porvenir massacre. White is the trustee of the Brite Ranch, the site of a cross-border raid by Mexicans on Christmas Day 1917, about a month before the Porvenir massacre. When I explained that the state-sanctioned extrajudicial execution of 15 men and boys met all the criteria I could think of for a massacre, he shot back, “It sounds like you already have your opinion.”

    For generations, ranching families like the Brites have dominated the social, economic and political life of Presidio County. In a visit to the Marfa & Presidio County Museum, I was told that there were almost no Hispanic surnames in any of the exhibits, though 84 percent of the county is Hispanic. The Brite family name, however, was everywhere.

    White and others in Presidio County subscribe to an alternative history of the Porvenir massacre, centering on the notion that the Porvenir residents were involved in the bloody Christmas Day raid.

    “They weren’t just simple farmers,” White told me, referring to the victims. “I seriously doubt that they were just killed for no reason.” Once he’d heard about the historical marker, he said, he’d talked to everyone he knew about it, including former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Mona Blocker Garcia.

    I visited Garcia at her Marfa home, an 1886 adobe that’s the same age as the venerable Marfa County Courthouse down the street. Garcia, 82, is Anglo, and married to a former oil executive whose ancestry, she explained, is Spanish and French Basque. A Houston native, she retired in the 1990s to Marfa, where she befriended the Brite family and became involved in local history. She told me that she had shared a draft text of the marker with the Brites, and they had agreed that it was factually inaccurate.

    Garcia cited a story a Brite descendant had told her about a young goat herder from Porvenir who purportedly witnessed the Christmas Day raid, told authorities about the perpetrators from his community and then disappeared without a trace into a witness protection program in Oklahoma. When I asked if there was any evidence that the boy actually existed, she acknowledged the story was “folklore.” Still, she said, “the story has lasted 100 years. Why would anybody make something like that up?”

    The actual history is quite clear. In the days after the massacre, the Texas Rangers commander, Captain J.M. Fox, initially reported that Porvenir residents had fired on the Rangers. Later, he claimed that residents had participated in the Christmas Day raid. Subsequent investigations by the Mexican consulate, the U.S. Army and state Representative J.T. Canales concluded that the murdered men were unarmed and innocent, targeted solely because of their ethnicity by a vigilante force organized at the Brite Ranch. As a result, in June 1918, five Rangers were dismissed, Fox was forced to resign and Company B of the Texas Rangers was disbanded.

    But justice remained elusive. In the coming years, Fox re-enlisted as captain of Company A, while three of the dismissed lawmen found new employment. One re-enlisted as a Ranger, a second became a U.S. customs inspector and the third was hired by the Brite Ranch. No one was ever prosecuted. As time passed, the historical records of the massacre, including Harry Warren’s papers, affidavits from widows and other relatives and witness testimony from the various investigations, were largely forgotten. In their place came texts like Walter Prescott Webb’s The Texas Rangers: A Century of Frontier Defense, which played an outsize role in the creation of the heroic myth of the Texas Rangers. Relying entirely on interviews with the murderers themselves, Webb accepted at face value Fox’s discredited version of events. For more than 50 years, Webb’s account was considered the definitive one of the massacre — though, unsurprisingly, he didn’t use that word.

    An Observer review of hundreds of emails shows that the state commission was aware of potential controversy over the marker from the very beginning. In an email from 2015, Executive Director Mark Wolfe gave John Nau, the chair of the THC’s executive committee, a heads-up that while the marker was supported by historical scholarship, “the [Presidio County Historical Commission] opposes the marker.” The emails also demonstrate that the agency viewed the claims of historical inaccuracies in the marker text made by Mona Blocker Garcia and the county commission as minor issues of wording.

    On August 6, the day before the decision to halt the marker, Charles Sadnick, the history programs director, wrote Wolfe to say that the “bigger problem” was the ceremony, where he worried there might be disagreements among Presidio County residents, and which he described as “involving some politics which we don’t want a part of.”

    What were the politics that the commission was worried about, and where were these concerns coming from? Garcia’s last-minute letter may have been a factor, but it wasn’t the only one. For the entire summer, Glenn Justice, a right-wing amateur historian who lives in a rural gated community an hour outside San Angelo, had been the driving force behind a whisper campaign to discredit Martinez and scuttle the dedication ceremony.

    “There are radicals in the ‘brown power’ movement that only want the story told of Rangers and [the] Army and gringos killing innocent Mexicans,” Justice told me when we met in his garage, which doubles as the office for Rimrock Press, a publishing company whose catalog consists entirely of Justice’s own work. He was referring to Refusing to Forget and in particular Martinez, the marker’s sponsor.

    Justice has been researching the Porvenir massacre for more than 30 years, starting when he first visited the Big Bend as a graduate student. He claims to be, and probably is, the first person since schoolteacher Harry Warren to call Porvenir a “massacre” in print, in a master’s thesis published by the University of Texas at El Paso in 1991. Unlike White and Garcia, Justice doesn’t question the innocence of the Porvenir victims. But he believes that additional “context” is necessary to understand the reasons for the massacre, which he views as an aberration, rather than a representatively violent part of a long history of racism. “There have never been any problems between the races to speak of [in Presidio County],” he told me.

    In 2015, Justice teamed up with former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Sul Ross State University archaeologist David Keller on a privately funded excavation at the massacre site. He is working on a new book about the bullets and bullet casings they found — which he believes implicate the U.S. Army cavalry in the shooting — and also partnered with Patterson to produce a documentary. But they’d run out of money, and the film was taken over by noted Austin filmmaker Andrew Shapter, who pitched the project to PBS and Netflix. In the transition, Justice was demoted to the role of one of 12 consulting historians. Meanwhile, Martinez was given a prominent role on camera.

    Justice was disgruntled when he learned that the dedication ceremony would take place in El Paso. He complained to organizer Arlinda Valencia and local historical commission members before contacting Ponton, the county attorney, and Amanda Shields, a descendant of massacre victim Manuel Moralez.

    “I didn’t want to take my father to a mob scene,” Shields told me over the phone, by way of explaining her opposition to the dedication ceremony. She believed the rumor that O’Rourke and Gutiérrez would be involved.

    In August, Shields called Valencia to demand details about the program for the ceremony. At the time, she expressed particular concern about a potential Q&A event with Martinez that would focus on parallels between border politics and violence in 1918 and today.

    “This is not a political issue,” Shields told me. “It’s a historical issue. With everything that was going on, we didn’t want the ugliness of politics involved in it.” By “everything,” she explained, she was referring primarily to the issue of family separation. Benita and Buddy Albarado told me that Shields’ views represent a small minority of descendants.

    Martinez said that the idea of ignoring the connections between past and present went against her reasons for fighting to get a marker in the first place. “I’m a historian,” she said. “It’s hard to commemorate such a period of violence, in the midst of another ongoing humanitarian crisis, when this period of violence shaped the institutions of policing that we have today. And that cannot be relegated to the past.”

    After communicating with Justice and Shields, Ponton phoned THC Commissioner Gilbert “Pete” Peterson, who is a bank investment officer in Alpine. That call set in motion the sequence of events that would ultimately derail the marker. Peterson immediately emailed Wolfe, the state commission’s executive director, to say that the marker was becoming “a major political issue.” Initially, though, Wolfe defended the agency’s handling of the marker. “Frankly,” Wolfe wrote in his reply, “this might just be one where the [Presidio County Historical Commission] isn’t going to be happy, and that’s why these stories have been untold for so long.” Peterson wrote back to say that he had been in touch with members of the THC executive committee, which consists of 15 members appointed by either former Governor Rick Perry or Governor Greg Abbott, and that an email about the controversy had been forwarded to THC chair John Nau. Two days later, Peterson added, “This whole thing is a burning football that will be thrown to the media.”

    At a meeting of the Presidio County Historical Commission on August 17, Peterson suggested that the executive board played a major role in the decision to pause production of the marker. “I stopped the marker after talking to Rod [Ponton],” Peterson said. “I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking with the chairman and vice-chairman [of the THC]. What we have said, fairly emphatically, is that there will not be a dedication in El Paso.” Through a spokesperson, Wolfe said that the executive committee is routinely consulted and the decision was ultimately his.

    The spokesperson said, “The big reason that the marker was delayed was to be certain about its accuracy. We want these markers to stand for generations and to be as accurate as possible.”

    With no marker to unveil, Valencia still organized a small commemoration. Many descendants, including Benita and Buddy Albarado, chose not to attend. Still, the event was described by Jeff Davis, a THC representative in attendance, as “a near perfect event” whose tone was “somber and respectful but hopeful.”

    Most of THC’s executive committee members are not historians. The chair, John Nau, is CEO of the nation’s largest Anheuser-Busch distributor and a major Republican party donor. His involvement in the Porvenir controversy was not limited to temporarily halting the marker. In August, he also instructed THC staff to ask the Presidio historical commission to submit applications for markers commemorating raids by Mexicans on white ranches during the Mexican Revolution, which Nau described as “a significant but largely forgotten incident in the state’s history.”

    Garcia confirmed that she had been approached by THC staff. She added that the THC had suggested two specific topics: the Christmas Day raid and a subsequent raid at the Neville Ranch.

    The idea of additional plaques to provide so-called context that could be interpreted as justifying the massacre — or at the very least setting up a false moral equivalence — appears to have mollified critics like White, Garcia and Justice. The work on a revised Porvenir massacre text proceeded quickly, with few points of contention, once it began in mid-September. The marker was sent to the foundry on September 18.
    “It’s hard to commemorate such a period of violence, in the midst of another ongoing humanitarian crisis, when this period of violence shaped the institutions of policing that we have today.”

    In the end, the Porvenir descendants will get their marker — but it may come at a cost. Martinez called the idea of multiple markers “deeply unsettling” and not appropriate for the Undertold Marker program. “Events like the Brite Ranch raid and the Neville raid have been documented by historians for over a century,” she said. “These are not undertold histories. My concern with having a series of markers is that, again, it casts suspicion on the victims of these historical events. It creates the logic that these raids caused this massacre, that it was retribution for these men and boys participating.”

    In early November, the THC unexpectedly announced a dedication ceremony for Friday, November 30. The date was one of just a few on which Martinez, who was still planning on organizing several public history events in conjunction with the unveiling, had told the agency months prior that she had a schedule conflict. In an email to Martinez, Sadnick said that it was the only date Nau could attend this year, and that it was impossible for agency officials to make “secure travel plans” once the legislative session began in January.

    A handful of descendants, including Shields and the Albarados, still plan to attend. “This is about families having closure,” Shields told me. “Now, this can finally be put to rest.”

    The Albarados are livid that the THC chose a date that, in their view, prioritized the convenience of state and county officials over the attendance of descendants — including their own daughters, who feared they wouldn’t be able to get off work. They also hope to organize a second, unofficial gathering at the marker site next year, with the participation of more descendants and the Refusing to Forget historians. “We want people to know the truth of what really happened [at Porvenir],” Buddy told me, “and to know who it was that got this historical marker put there.”

    Others, like Arlinda Valencia, planned to stay home. “Over 100 years ago, our ancestors were massacred, and the reason they were massacred was because of lies that people were stating as facts,” she told me in El Paso. “They called them ‘bandits,’ when all they were doing was working and trying to make a living. And now, it’s happening again.”

    #mémoire #histoire #Texas #USA #massacre #assassinat #méxicains #violence #migrations #commémoration #historicisation #frontières #violence_aux_frontières #violent_borders #Mexique


  • Are Jared and Ivanka Good for the Jews? - The New York Times

    Jewish communities stand more divided than ever on whether to embrace or denounce Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

    By Amy Chozick and Hannah Seligson
    Nov. 17, 2018

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/17/style/ivanka-trump-jared-kushner.html

    On election night in Beverly Hills, Jason Blum, the hot shot horror-movie producer, was accepting an award at the Israel Film Festival. The polls in a string of midterm contests were closing, and Mr. Blum, a vocal critic of President Trump, was talking about how much was at stake.

    “The past two years have been hard for all of us who cherish the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of this country,” Mr. Blum said.

    That’s when the crowd of mostly Jewish producers and power brokers started to chant, “We like Trump!” An Israeli man stepped onto the stage to try to pull Mr. Blum away from the microphone as the crowd at the Saban Theater Steve Tisch Cinema Center cheered.

    “As you can see from this auditorium, it’s the end of civil discourse,” Mr. Blum said, as security rushed the stage to help him. “Thanks to our president, anti-Semitism is on the rise.”
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    In the weeks after a gunman killed 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, in one of the most horrific acts of anti-Semitism in years, debates about the president’s role in stoking extremism have roiled American Jews — and forced an uncomfortable reckoning between Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and his daughter and son-in-law’s Jewish faith.
    Rabbi Jeffrey Myers greets Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump near the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
    Credit
    Doug Mills/The New York Times

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    Rabbi Jeffrey Myers greets Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump near the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
    Rabbis and Jewish leaders have raged on Twitter and in op-eds, in sermons and over shabbat dinners, over how to reconcile the paradox of Jared Kushner, the descendant of Holocaust survivors, and Ivanka Trump, who converted to Judaism to marry Mr. Kushner.

    To some Jews, the couple serves as a bulwark pushing the Trump administration toward pro-Israel policies, most notably the decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. To many others, they are the wolves in sheep’s clothing, allowing Mr. Trump to brush aside criticism that his words have fueled the uptick in violent attacks against Jews.

    “For Jews who are deeply opposed to Donald Trump and truly believe he is an anti-Semite, it’s deeply problematic that he’s got a Jewish son-in-law and daughter. How can that be?” said Dr. Jonathan D. Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University.
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    Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump serve as senior advisers in the White House. At a time when Judaism is under assault — the F.B.I. said this week that anti-Semitic attacks have increased in each of the last three years — they are unabashedly Orthodox, observing shabbat each week, walking to an Orthodox Chabad shul near their Kalorama home in Washington, D.C., dropping their children off at Jewish day school and hanging mezuzas on the doors of their West Wing offices.

    After the Pittsburgh attack, Mr. Kushner played a key role in Mr. Trump (eventually) decrying “the scourge of anti-Semitism.” And Mr. Kushner helped arrange the president’s visit to the Squirrel Hill synagogue, including inviting Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States to accompany them. There, in Pittsburgh, thousands marched to protest what one organizer described as the insult of the Mr. Trump’s visit.
    Arabella Kushner lights the menorah as her parents look on during a Hanukkah reception in the East Room of the White House in 2017.
    Credit
    Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

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    Arabella Kushner lights the menorah as her parents look on during a Hanukkah reception in the East Room of the White House in 2017.CreditOlivier Douliery/Getty Images
    The White House has referenced Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump’s religion to dismiss accusations that Mr. Trump’s rhetoric has emboldened anti-Semites. “The president is the grandfather of several Jewish grandchildren,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, told reporters.

    Using the couple in this way has unnerved many Jews who oppose the president and say Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump violated the sacred, if sometimes unspoken, communal code that mandates Jews take care of each other during times of struggle. “I’m more offended by Jared than I am by President Trump,” said Eric Reimer, a lawyer in New York who was on Mr. Kushner’s trivia team at The Frisch School, a modern Orthodox yeshiva in New Jersey that they both attended.

    “We, as Jews, are forced to grapple with the fact that Jared and his wife are Jewish, but Jared is participating in acts of Chillul Hashem,” said Mr. Reimer, using the Hebrew term for when a Jew behaves immorally while in the presence of others.
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    For Mr. Reimer, who hasn’t spoken to Mr. Kushner since high school, one of those incidents was the administration’s Muslim ban, which prompted members of the Frisch community to sign an open letter to Mr. Kushner imploring him “to exercise the influence and access you have to annals of power to ensure others don’t suffer the same fate as millions of our co-religionists.”

    Leah Pisar, president of the Aladdin Project, a Paris-based group that works to counter Holocaust denial, and whose late father, Samuel Pisar, escaped Auschwitz and advised John F. Kennedy, said she found it “inconceivable that Jared could stay affiliated with the administration after Pittsburgh” and called Mr. Kushner the president’s “fig leaf.”

    Those kinds of accusations are anathema to other Jews, particularly a subset of Orthodox Jews who accused liberal Jews of politicizing the Pittsburgh attack and who say that any policies that would weaken Israel are the ultimate act of anti-Semitism.
    Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner at the opening ceremony of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem in May.
    Credit
    Sebastian Scheiner/Associated Press

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    Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner at the opening ceremony of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem in May.CreditSebastian Scheiner/Associated Press
    “Jared and Ivanka are one of us as traditional Jews who care deeply about Israel,” said Ronn Torossian, a New York publicist whose children attend the Ramaz School, the same Upper East Side yeshiva where Mr. Kushner’s eldest daughter Arabella was once enrolled. “I look at them as part of our extended family.”

    Even some Jews who dislike Mr. Trump’s policies and recoil at his political style may feel a reluctance to criticize the country’s most prominent Orthodox Jewish couple, grappling with the age-old question that has haunted the Jewish psyche for generations: Yes, but is it good for the Jews?
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    To that end, even as liberal New York Jews suggest the couple would be snubbed when they eventually return to the city, many in the Orthodox community would likely embrace them. “They certainly won’t be banned, but I don’t think most synagogues would give them an aliyah,” said Ethan Tucker, a rabbi and president of the Hadar yeshiva in New York, referring to the relatively limited honor of being called to make a blessing before and after the reading of the Torah. (Mr. Tucker is also the stepson of Joe Lieberman, the first Jewish candidate to run on a major party ticket in the U.S.) “I don’t think people generally honor people they feel were accomplices to politics and policies they abhor,” Mr. Tucker said.

    Haskel Lookstein, who serves as rabbi emeritus of the Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, the modern Orthodox synagogue on the Upper East Side that Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump attended, wrote in an open letter to Mr. Trump that he was “deeply troubled” by the president saying “You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides,” in response to the white nationalist riots in Charlottesville, Va.

    When reached last week to comment about the president’s daughter and son-in-law days after the Pittsburgh attack, Mr. Lookstein said simply, “I love them and that’s one of the reasons I don’t talk about them.”

    Talk to enough Jews about Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump, and you begin to realize that the couple has become a sort of Rorschach test, with defenders and detractors seeing what they want to see as it relates to larger rifts about Jewish identity.

    “It’s not about Jared and Ivanka,” said Matthew Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. “People look at them through the prism of their own worldviews.”
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    From left to right on front row, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara Netanyahu, Mr. Kushner, Ms. Trump, and the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin at the opening ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.
    Credit
    Sebastian Scheiner/Associated Press

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    From left to right on front row, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara Netanyahu, Mr. Kushner, Ms. Trump, and the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin at the opening ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.CreditSebastian Scheiner/Associated Press
    Those worldviews are rapidly changing. One in five American Jews now describes themselves as having no religion and identifying as Jews based only on ancestry, ethnicity or culture, according to Pew. By contrast, in the 1950s, 93 percent of American Jews identified as Jews based on religion.
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    As Jews retreat from membership to reform synagogues, historically made up of political liberals who were at the forefront of the fight for Civil Rights and other progressive issues, Chabad-Lubavitch, the Orthodox Hasidic group with which Mr. Kushner is affiliated, has become a rapidly-growing Jewish movement. The growth of Chabad correlates with fierce divisions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a small but growing contingent of American Jews who prioritize Israel above any other political or social issue.

    Mr. Kushner, in particular, has become a sort of proxy for these larger schisms about faith and Israel, according to Jewish experts. “There is a great deal of anxiety around the coming of the Orthodox,” said Dr. Sarna, the Brandeis professor. “Jared in every way — his Orthodoxy, his Chabad ties, his views on Israel — symbolizes those changes.”

    Mr. Kushner is the scion of wealthy real-estate developers and his family has donated millions of dollars to the Jewish community, including through a foundation that gives to settlements in the West Bank. Mr. Kushner influenced the Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy, to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, and to shutter a Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington.

    “You’d be hard pressed to find a better supporter of Israel than Donald Trump and Jared plays a role in that,” said Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary under President George W. Bush. Mr. Kushner is currently working on a Middle East peace plan expected to be rolled out in the coming months.

    Haim Saban, an entertainment magnate and pro-Israel Democrat, is optimistic about Mr. Kushner’s efforts. He said in an interview from his hotel in Israel that although he disagrees with some of Mr. Trump’s policies, “Jared and by extension the president understand the importance of the relationship between the U.S. and Israel on multiple levels — security, intelligence, but most of all, shared values.”
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    That embrace has only exacerbated tensions with secular Jews who overwhelmingly vote Democratic and oppose Mr. Trump. According to a 2018 survey by the American Jewish Committee, 41 percent of Jews said they strongly disagree with Mr. Trump’s handling of U.S.-Israeli relations and 71 percent had an overall unfavorable opinion of Mr. Trump. (In response to questions for this story, a White House press aide referred reporters to an Ami magazine poll of 263 Orthodox Jews in the tristate area published in August. Eighty-two percent said they would vote for President Trump in 2020.)

    “To wave a flag and say ‘Oh, he’s obviously pro-Jewish because he moved the embassy’ just absolutely ignores what we know to be a deeply alarming rise of anti-Semitism and all sorts of dog-whistling and enabling of the alt-right,” said Andy Bachman, a prominent progressive rabbi in New York.
    President Trump praying at the Western Wall.
    Credit
    Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

    Image

    President Trump praying at the Western Wall.CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times
    In September, Mr. Kushner and his top advisers, Jason D. Greenblatt and Avi Berkowitz, hosted a private dinner at the Pierre Hotel on the Upper East Side. Over a kosher meal, Mr. Kushner, aware of concerns within the Jewish community that Israel policy had become an overly partisan issue, fielded the advice of a range of Jewish leaders, including hedge-fund billionaire and Republican donor Paul Singer and Mr. Saban, to craft his Middle East peace plan. “He called and said ’I’ll bring 10 Republicans and you bring 10 Democrats,’” Mr. Saban said.

    The undertaking will only bring more kvetching about Mr. Kushner. Indeed, some of Mr. Trump’s most ardent Jewish supporters have already expressed their displeasure at any deal that would require Israel to give up land.

    “I’m not happy with Jared promoting a peace deal that’s sending a message that we’re ready to ignore the horrors of the Palestinian regime,” said Morton A. Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America and a friend of Republican megadonor Sheldon G. Adelson.

    “But …” Mr. Klein added, as if self-aware of how other Jews will view his position, “I am a fanatical, pro-Israel Zionist.”
    Amy Chozick is a New York-based writer-at-large and a frequent contributor to The New York Times Magazine, writing about the personalities and power struggles in business, politics and media.


    • Exclusive: Khashoggi sons issue emotional appeal for the return of their father’s body
      By Nic Robertson, CNN
      https://edition.cnn.com/2018/11/04/middleeast/salah-khashoggi-abdullah-khashoggi-intl/index.html

      Updated 0004 GMT (0804 HKT) November 5, 2018

      (...) Khashoggi was labeled as a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer and a dangerous Islamist in phone calls the Saudi crown prince had with Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, and John Bolton, national security adviser, according to reports in both the Washington Post and New York Times. The Muslim Brotherhood, considered a terror group in many Arab nations, but not the US or Europe, has long been seen as an existential threat by the desert kingdom’s leaders.
      ‘It’s just labels and people not doing their homework properly, and reading his article and going in depth. It’s easier to stick a label on him,’ Abdullah said, when asked about the Muslim Brotherhood claim.
      Asked how Khashoggi should be remembered, Salah replied, ‘as a moderate man who has common values with everyone... a man who loved his country, who believed so much in it and its potential.’
      “Jamal was never a dissident. He believed in the monarchy that it is the thing that is keeping the country together. And he believed in the transformation that it is going through.”
      Reflecting on their father’s career as a journalist, they say Khashoggi was ‘like a rock and roll star’ when they were out with him in Saudi Arabia.
      ‘He was a public figure that was liked by everyone else,’ Salah said. ‘You don’t see that much in media, in print media.’ (...)

      #Jamal_Khashoggi


  • Khashoggi and the Jewish question - Middle East - Jerusalem Post
    https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Khashoggi-and-the-Jewish-question-569256

    Khashoggi and the Jewish question
    “It is certainly not in our interests to see the status of the Saudi government diminished in Washington.”
    By Herb Keinon
    October 12, 2018 04:24

    The disappearance of Saudi government critic and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey – and the very real possibility that the Saudis either kidnapped him, killed him, or both – is no exception.

    On the surface, this story seems distant from Jerusalem. Israel was not involved in any way, and even Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who never misses an opportunity to blast Israel, is not saying that Jerusalem had anything to do with it.

    (...)
    As a New York Times headline read on Thursday, “Khashoggi’s disappearance puts Kushner’s bet on Saudi crown prince at risk.”

    US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has invested much in building a relationship with MBS, and Jerusalem – for its own interests – hopes that this particular bet does not turn sour.

    (...) As Dore Gold, the head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and former Foreign Ministry director-general, said: “This problem could be used by the Iranians to drive a wedge between the West and Saudi Arabia.”

    That is bad for Israel, he added, because “anything that strengthens Iran’s posturing in the Middle East is bad for Israel,” and in the Mideast balance of power, a weakened Saudi Arabia means a strengthened Iran.

    It also means a strengthened Turkey, which could explain why Ankara is going the full monty on this issue, releasing surveillance tape and leaking information about the investigation.

    “Turkey is part of an axis with Qatar,” Gold said, “and that puts Saudi Arabia at odds with the Turkish government.


  • How many murders can a police informer get away with? | News | The Guardian
    https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/08/how-many-murders-can-a-police-informer-get-away-with

    Gary Haggarty sat and listened for almost an hour and a half as the judge explained the sentence he was about to receive, for offences to which he had already pleaded guilty. It took so long because there were so many crimes to be considered: 201 of them, in fact.

    They included five murders; five attempted murders; one count of aiding and abetting murder; 23 conspiracies to murder; four kidnappings; six charges of false imprisonment; a handful of arson attacks, including burning down a pub; five hijackings; 66 offences of possession of firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life (the weapons included two Sten submachine guns, an Uzi, 12 Taurus pistols and two AK47s); 10 counts of possession of explosives; 18 of wounding with intent and two charges of aggravated burglary. There was also criminal damage: just the one charge, although this covered the destruction of several houses during a six-month period.

    But this was not all. There were also a number of TICs, as they are known in UK courts – offences “taken into consideration”. Offenders are allowed to admit TICs as a way of saving the police and the courts time and money, and they are usually minor additional infractions: when someone pleads guilty to shoplifting on four occasions, for example, they may ask the court to consider two further shoplifting offences as TICs.

    On this occasion there were 304 additional offences taken into consideration. They included a number of malicious woundings; possession of an array of firearms, including three Bren light machine guns and a number of assault rifles; extorting money from various takeaway restaurants and a pool hall; making “an unwarranted demand of a quantity of fuel” from a petrol station; burning down said petrol station; unlawful imprisonment; 37 assaults; robbery; car theft; possession of amphetamine and cannabis with intent to supply; and possession of various offensive weapons, such as hatchets, baseball bats and a telescopic baton, while in a public place.

    The offences were committed between 24 February 1991 and 1 March 2007: a serious crime committed every couple of days for 16 years.

    Among the people sitting in the public gallery were relatives of Haggarty’s victims, and some of the judge’s sentencing remarks must have been almost unbearably painful to hear. Haggarty’s first murder victim was Sean McParland, a 55-year-old who was killed while babysitting his four grandchildren, who were aged between three and nine. The nine-year-old gave a statement to police in which he described an armed man busting into the house. As the man took aim, his grandfather “started to bend down and was flapping his arms”. The bullet hit McParland in the left side of his face and severed his spinal cord before exiting the right side of his neck.

    Haggarty had told police that he wanted to say sorry. That killing was a case of mistaken identity: the intended victim was McParland’s son-in-law.
    ...
    After Haggarty’s sentencing hearing in January, relatives of his victims who had attended the hearing went for a cup of tea at a cafe across the road from the court. Aaron McCone, whose father, John Harbinson, had been among those murdered, was joined by Ciaran Fox, whose father, Eamon, was murdered by Haggarty and others in May 1994, and Paul McKenna, whose sister Sharon was shot by Haggarty’s friend Mark Haddock a year before that.

    They were all bitterly disappointed at the heavily discounted sentence, but not in the least surprised. “Nothing in court surprised us, but it’s still very hard to take,” said McCone, trying, and not quite succeeding, to hold back his tears. “He’s a serial killer and he’ll be out after serving a little over three years. That’s not justice.”

    “We feel let down by the justice system in this country,” said Fox. “Gary Haggarty was allowed to kill at will. The police knew he was killing at will and they let him continue.

    #Royaume_Uni #Irlande #IRA #UVF #terrorisme #banditisme #justice #histoire


  • Trump and Allies Seek End to Refugee Status for Millions of Palestinians
    Foreign Policy - By Colum Lynch, Robbie Gramer | August 3, 2018, 2:12 PM
    https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/08/03/trump-palestinians-israel-refugees-unrwaand-allies-seek-end-to-refuge

    Jared Kushner, U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, has quietly been trying to do away with the U.N. relief agency that has provided food and essential services to millions of Palestinian refugees for decades, according to internal emails obtained by Foreign Policy.

    His initiative is part of a broader push by the Trump administration and its allies in Congress to strip these Palestinians of their refugee status in the region and take their issue off the table in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, according to both American and Palestinian officials. At least two bills now making their way through Congress address the issue.

    Kushner, whom Trump has charged with solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has been reluctant to speak publicly about any aspect of his Middle East diplomacy. A peace plan he’s been working on with other U.S. officials for some 18 months has been one of Washington’s most closely held documents.

    But his position on the refugee issue and his animus toward the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is evident in internal emails written by Kushner and others earlier this year.

    “It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA,” Kushner wrote about the agency in one of those emails, dated Jan. 11 and addressed to several other senior officials, including Trump’s Middle East peace envoy, Jason Greenblatt.

    “This [agency] perpetuates a status quo, is corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace,” he wrote.

    The United States has helped fund UNRWA since it was formed in 1949 to provide relief for Palestinians displaced from their homes following the establishment of the State of Israel and ensuing international war. Previous administrations have viewed the agency as a critical contributor to stability in the region.

    But many Israel supporters in the United States today see UNRWA as part of an international infrastructure that has artificially kept the refugee issue alive and kindled hopes among the exiled Palestinians that they might someday return home—a possibility Israel flatly rules out.

    Critics of the agency point in particular to its policy of granting refugee status not just to those who fled Mandatory Palestine 70 years ago but to their descendants as well—accounting that puts the refugee population at around 5 million, nearly one-third of whom live in camps across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza.

    By trying to unwind UNRWA, the Trump administration appears ready to reset the terms of the Palestinian refugee issue in Israel’s favor—as it did on another key issue in December, when Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

    In the same January email, Kushner wrote: “Our goal can’t be to keep things stable and as they are. … Sometimes you have to strategically risk breaking things in order to get there.”

    #UNRWA


  • As U.S. pushes for Mideast peace, Saudi king reassures allies |
    Reuters

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-paelestinians-usa-saudi/as-u-s-pushes-for-mideast-peace-saudi-king-reassures-allies-idUSKBN1KJ0F9

    RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has reassured Arab allies it will not endorse any Middle East peace plan that fails to address Jerusalem’s status or refugees’ right of return, easing their concerns that the kingdom might back a nascent U.S. deal which aligns with Israel on key issues.

    King Salman’s private guarantees to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his public defense of long-standing Arab positions in recent months have helped reverse perceptions that Saudi Arabia’s stance was changing under his powerful young son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, diplomats and analysts said.

    This in turn has called into question whether Saudi Arabia, birthplace of Islam and site of its holiest shrines, can rally Arab support for a new push to end the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, with an eye to closing ranks against mutual enemy Iran.

    “In Saudi Arabia, the king is the one who decides on this issue now, not the crown prince,” said a senior Arab diplomat in Riyadh. “The U.S. mistake was they thought one country could pressure the rest to give in, but it’s not about pressure. No Arab leader can concede on Jerusalem or Palestine.”

    SPONSORED

    Palestinian officials told Reuters in December that Prince Mohammed, known as MbS, had pressed Abbas to support the U.S. plan despite concerns it offered the Palestinians limited self-government inside disconnected patches of the occupied West Bank, with no right of return for refugees displaced by the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967.

    Such a plan would diverge from the Arab Peace Initiative drawn up by Saudi Arabia in 2002 in which Arab nations offered Israel normal ties in return for a statehood deal with the Palestinians and full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in 1967.

    Saudi officials have denied any difference between King Salman, who has vocally supported that initiative, and MbS, who has shaken up long-held policies on many issues and told a U.S. magazine in April that Israelis are entitled to live peacefully on their own land - a rare statement for an Arab leader.

    The Palestinian ambassador to Riyadh, Basem Al-Agha, told Reuters that King Salman had expressed support for Palestinians in a recent meeting with Abbas, saying: “We will not abandon you ... We accept what you accept and we reject what you reject.”

    He said that King Salman naming the 2018 Arab League conference “The Jerusalem Summit” and announcing $200 million in aid for Palestinians were messages that Jerusalem and refugees were back on the table.

    FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud attends Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 26, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
    The Saudi authorities did not respond to a request for comment on the current status of diplomatic efforts.

    RED LINES

    Diplomats in the region say Washington’s current thinking, conveyed during a tour last month by top White House officials, does not include Arab East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, a right of return for refugees or a freeze of Israeli settlements in lands claimed by the Palestinians.

    Senior adviser Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, has not provided concrete details of the U.S. strategy more than 18 months after he was tasked with forging peace.

    A diplomat in Riyadh briefed on Kushner’s latest visit to the kingdom said King Salman and MbS had seen him together: “MbS did the talking while the king was in the background.”

    Independent analyst Neil Partrick said King Salman appears to have reined in MbS’ “politically reckless approach” because of Jerusalem’s importance to Muslims.

    “So MbS won’t oppose Kushner’s ‘deal’, but neither will he, any longer, do much to encourage its one-sided political simplicities,” said Partrick, lead contributor and editor of “Saudi Arabian Foreign Policy: Conflict and Cooperation”.

        Kushner and fellow negotiator Jason Greenblatt have not presented a comprehensive proposal but rather disjointed elements, which one diplomat said “crossed too many red lines”.

    Instead, they heavily focused on the idea of setting up an economic zone in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula with the adjacent Gaza Strip possibly coming under the control of Cairo, which Arab diplomats described as unacceptable.

    In Qatar, Kushner asked Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to pressure the Islamist group Hamas to cede control of Gaza in return for development aid, the diplomats said.

    One diplomat briefed on the meeting said Sheikh Tamim just nodded silently. It was unclear if that signaled an agreement or whether Qatar was offered anything in return.

    “The problem is there is no cohesive plan presented to all countries,” said the senior Arab diplomat in Riyadh. “Nobody sees what everyone else is being offered.”

    Kushner, a 37-year-old real estate developer with little experience of international diplomacy or political negotiation, visited Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and Israel in June. He did not meet Abbas, who has refused to see Trump’s team after the U.S. embassy was moved to Jerusalem.

    In an interview at the end of his trip, Kushner said Washington would announce its Middle East peace plan soon, and press on with or without Abbas. Yet there has been little to suggest any significant progress towards ending the decades-old conflict, which Trump has said would be “the ultimate deal”.

    “There is no new push. Nothing Kushner presented is acceptable to any of the Arab countries,” the Arab diplomat said. “He thinks he is ‘I Dream of Genie’ with a magic wand to make a new solution to the problem.”

    A White House official told reporters last week that Trump’s envoys were working on the most detailed set of proposals to date for the long-awaited peace proposal, which would include what the administration is calling a robust economic plan, though there is thus far no release date.

    Editing by Giles Elgood
    Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

    • In Saudi Arabia, the king is the one who decides on this issue now, not the crown prince,
      […]
      A diplomat in Riyadh briefed on Kushner’s latest visit [in June] to the kingdom said King Salman and MbS had seen him together: “MbS did the talking while the king was in the background.

      Euh, question bête : c’est dans la même aile de l’hôpital la gériatrie de king S et la rééducation (il est probablement sorti des soins intensifs, depuis le temps) de Kronprinz bS ?

      Ce serait quand même plus commode pour Mr Son in law


  • A Strip apart? Gaza grapples with politics of expanded Egyptian administration in Trump’s ‘century deal’ | MadaMasr

    https://www.madamasr.com/en/2018/06/29/feature/politics/a-strip-apart-gaza-grapples-with-politics-of-expanded-egyptian-administrat

    An economic delegation from the Gaza Strip arrived in Cairo on Tuesday night to discuss the United States’ proposal concerning the humanitarian and economic state of the besieged Palestinian territory, as Washington continues to push talks concerning the “deal of the century.”

    Deputy Finance Minister Youssef al-Kayali headed up the Gaza delegation, which, according to a Palestinian political source who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, was in Cairo “to listen to what the Egyptian side proposes without a preconceived position and without violating known Palestinian principles.”

    To this point, indications of Gaza’s appetite for the deal have been absent from the unfolding diplomatic discussions. The US diplomatic envoy headed by Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, and Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East, was primarily focused on informing regional leaders of the defining features of Trump’s initiative to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but, notably, did not meet with Palestinian actors during last week’s regional tour, which included stops in Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

    The framework of the US’s “century deal” involves the construction of a joint port on the Mediterranean between the Egyptian and Palestinian cities of Rafah, according to US and European diplomatic sources that spoke to Mada Masr ahead of the US delegation’s visit last week. The joint port would act as a prelude to extensive economic activity, for which North Sinai would serve as a hub, and would include five principal projects that would be funded by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with a labor force that would be two-thirds Palestinian from the Gaza Strip and one-third Egyptian.


  • “National security” cited as reason Al Jazeera nixed Israel lobby film | The Electronic Intifada
    https://electronicintifada.net/content/national-security-cited-reason-al-jazeera-nixed-israel-lobby-film/24566

    Al Jazeera’s investigative documentary into the US Israel lobby was censored by Qatar over “national security” fears, The Electronic Intifada has learned.

    These include that broadcast of the film could add to pressure for the US to pull its massive Al Udeid air base out of the Gulf state, or make a Saudi military invasion more likely.

    A source has confirmed that broadcast of The Lobby – USA was indefinitely delayed as “a matter of national security” for Qatar. The source has been briefed by a high-level individual in Doha.

    One of the Israel lobby groups whose activities are revealed in the film has been mounting a campaign to convince the US to withdraw its military forces from Qatar – which leaders in the emirate would see as a major blow to their security.

    The tiny gas-rich monarchy houses and funds satellite channel Al Jazeera.

    In April, managers at the channel were forced to deny a claim by a right-wing American Zionist group that the program has been canceled altogether.

    In October 2017, the head of Al Jazeera’s investigative unit promised that the film would be aired “very soon.”

    Yet eight months later, it has yet to see the light of day.

    In March, The Electronic Intifada exclusively published the first concrete details of what is in the film.

    The film reportedly identifies a number of lobby groups as working directly with Israel to spy on American citizens using sophisticated data gathering techniques. The documentary is also said to cast light on covert efforts to smear and intimidate Americans seen as too critical of Israel.

    Some of the activity revealed in the film could include US organizations acting as front operations for Israel without registering as agents of a foreign state as required by US law.

    The latest revelation over the censored film shows how seriously Qatar’s leadership is taking threats of repercussions should it air.

    Threats
    The Israel lobby groups reported on in the film could be expected to take legal action against Al Jazeera if it is broadcast.

    However, such threats alone would be unlikely to deter Al Jazeera from broadcasting the film.

    The network has a history of vigorously defending its work and it was completely vindicated over complaints about a documentary aired in January 2017 that revealed how Israel lobby groups in Britain collude with the Israeli embassy, and how the embassy interfered in British politics.

    Israel’s supporters are also pushing for the US Congress to force the network, which has a large US operation, to register as a “foreign agent” in a similar fashion to Russian channel RT.

    But the high-level individual in Doha’s claim that the film is being censored as “a matter of national security” ties the affair to even more serious threats to Qatar and bolsters the conclusion that the censorship is being ordered at the highest level of the state.

    A year ago, with the support of US President Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar and imposed a transport and economic blockade on the country.

    Saudi rulers and their allies see Qatar as too independent of their influence and too open to relations with their regional rival Iran, and the blockade was an attempt to force it to heel.

    The Saudis and Israel accused Qatar of funding “terrorism,” and have taken measures to restrict Al Jazeera or demanded it be shut down altogether over what they perceive as the channel’s anti-Israel and anti-Saudi-monarchy biases.

    The blockade and the diplomatic assault sparked existential fears in Qatar that Saudi-led forces could go as far as to invade and install a more pliant regime in Doha.

    French newspaper Le Monde reported on Friday that the Saudi king has threatened “military action” against Qatar should it go ahead with a planned purchase of a Russian air defense missile system.

    In 2011, Saudi and Emirati forces intervened in Bahrain, another small Gulf nation, at the request of its ruling Khalifa monarchy in order to quell a popular uprising demanding democratic reforms.

    For three years, US and British-backed Saudi and Emirati forces have been waging a bloody and devastating war on Yemen to reimpose a Saudi-backed leadership on the country, clear evidence of their unprecedented readiness to directly use military force to impose their will.

    And no one in the region will have forgotten how quickly Iraqi forces were able to sweep in and take over Kuwait in August 1990.

    Air base
    The lesson of the Kuwait invasion for other small Gulf countries is that only the protection of the United States could guarantee their security from bigger neighbors.

    Qatar implemented that lesson by hosting the largest US military facility in the region, the massive Al Udeid air base.

    The Saudi-led bloc has pushed for the US to withdraw from the base and the Saudi foreign minister predicted that should the Americans pull out of Al Udeid, the regime in Doha would fall “in less than a week.”

    US warplanes operate from the Al Udeid air base near Doha, Qatar, October 2017. US Air Force Photo
    It would be a disaster from the perspective of Doha if the Israel lobby was to put its full weight behind a campaign to pull US forces out of Qatar.

    Earlier this year, an influential member of Congress and a former US defense secretary publicly discussed moving the US base out of Qatar at a conference hosted by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

    FDD is a neoconservative Israel lobby group that happens to be one of the subjects of the undercover Al Jazeera film.

    As The Electronic Intifada revealed in March, FDD is one of the groups acting as an agent of the Israeli government even though it is not registered to do so.

    In July 2017, FDD’s Jonathan Schanzer testified to Congress that it would be an “insane arrangement” to keep US forces at the Al Udeid air base while Qatar continued to support “terror.”

    It will concentrate minds in Doha that FDD was one of the lobby groups most dedicated to destroying the international deal with Iran over its nuclear energy program, a goal effectively achieved when the Trump administration pulled out of it last month.

    In a sign of how vulnerable Qatar feels over the issue, Doha has announced plans to upgrade the Al Udeid base in the hope, as the US military newspaper Stars and Stripes put it, “that the strategic military hub will be counted as one of the Pentagon’s permanent overseas installations.”

    The final straw?
    The cornerstone of Qatar’s effort to win back favor in Washington has been to aggressively compete with its Gulf rivals for the affections of Israel and its Washington lobby.

    Their belief appears to be that this lobby is so influential that winning its support can result in favorable changes to US policy.

    Qatar’s charm offensive has included junkets to Doha for such high-profile Israel supporters as Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and Morton Klein, the head of the Zionist Organization of America who publicly took credit for convincing Qatar’s ruler Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to veto broadcast of the documentary.

    While an all-out Saudi invasion of Qatar over a film series may seem far fetched, the thinking in Doha seems to be that broadcast of The Lobby – USA could be the final straw that antagonizes Qatar’s enemies and exposes it to further danger – especially over Al Udeid.

    With an administration in Washington that is seen as impulsive and unpredictable – it has just launched a trade war against its biggest partners Canada and the European Union – leaders in Doha may see it as foolhardy to take any chances.

    If that is the reason Al Jazeera’s film has been suppressed it is not so much a measure of any real and imminent threat Qatar faces, but rather of how successfully the lobby has convinced Arab rulers, including in Doha, that their well-being and longevity rests on cooperating with, or at least not crossing, Israel and its backers.

    Asa Winstanley is associate editor and Ali Abunimah is executive director of The Electronic Intifada.

    Qatar Al Jazeera The Lobby—USA Al Udeid air base Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani Donald Trump Jared Kushner Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Bahrain Iran Kuwait Foundation for the Defense of Democracies Jonathan Schanzer Morton Klein Alan Dershowitz Zionist Organization of America

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  • Top U.S. officials to Haaretz: Peace plan will be basis for talks, not ’take it or leave it’ document

    Senior officials say the plan will be revealed soon and stress that Trump sees Palestinian President Abbas as the only ’relevant address’

    Amir Tibon
    Jun 13, 2018

    https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-white-house-to-haaretz-peace-plan-is-basis-for-talks-not-blueprint

    WASHINGTON – The Trump administration’s plan for peace in the Middle East won’t be a “take it or leave it” proposal, but rather a basis for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, administration officials told Haaretz this week. They said the plan will be revealed soon, and that the White House hopes to share it not only with the leaders in  the region, but also with the general public.
    The officials said previous reports that the plan would be released immediately at the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan were incorrect. “We hope to release it in the near future, but not immediately after Ramadan,” one official explained. “Our top priority is to put it out at the right moment, so that the various spoilers who don’t want us to succeed have less of a chance to cause damage.” 
    >> Palestinians to U.S.: No ’Deal of the Century’ if Jerusalem Not Addressed ■ U.S. Hopes to Unveil Breakthrough in Gaza Cease-fire Alongside Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan
    While there have been some reports asserting that the plan will be a blueprint for a final peace agreement that the two sides will have to either accept or reject, the officials who spoke with Haaretz said those reports, too, were inaccurate.
    “We have said all along that we don’t want to impose an agreement. So presenting the plan as a ‘take it or leave it’ kind of document would be inconsistent with that,” one official explained. “We are a facilitator. It would be arrogant to assume we know better than anyone else,” said a second official. “At the end of the day, the two sides need to negotiate and reach an agreement. We want to help them reach that point, but we can’t structure the agreement for them.”
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    The officials criticized Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for refusing to engage with the administration, a position he has held to ever since Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last December. “We assume there will be fair and substantial criticism of the plan, but we are astonished that Abbas won’t even see it,” one official said. “It would be a shame for the Palestinian people if the Palestinian leadership refuses to engage with this plan.”
    At the same time, the officials stressed that the Trump administration is not looking for a way to bypass Abbas, and is not speaking to any other Palestinian political figures. “We are not trying to engage with any Palestinian politicians except President Abbas. He is the relevant address, and he is the one we hope to work with,” one official said. 
    >> Trump Mideast envoy: The Palestinians deserve so much more than Saeb Erekat ■ Erekat fires back: Trump administration is killing the peace process, not me
    Last month Haaretz reported that the only recent contact between high-ranking Palestinian and American officials was a meeting between Abbas’ security chief, Majid Faraj, and Mike Pompeo, who is now Secretary of State and headed the CIA at the time of the meeting. Palestinian officials explained that the meeting focused only on security and intelligence issues, which are not included in the Palestinian Authority’s political and diplomatic boycott of the administration.

    The administration officials emphasized that they are encouraged by signs that Arab countries are getting closer to Israel, but added that they have no illusions about the Arab world “abandoning” the Palestinians as part of an alliance with Israel. “It’s not realistic to expect that the Arabs would abandon the Palestinians. That’s not going to happen,” one of the officials stated. The Arab states, in the administration’s view, can help encourage the two sides to move forward with negotiations – but aren’t expected to force anything on either side.
    Under previous administrations, there were different approaches with regard to public exposure of detailed plans for Middle East peace. The George W. Bush administration released its “Road Map for Peace” in a speech by the president. The peace plan of former Secretary of State John Kerry, by contrast, was never made public (although drafts of it were published by Haaretz last June.)
    The current administration is considering making its peace plan available to the public, but only after its final version is shared with the leaders in the region. “We want the public to know what is in it, at the right time, because the public needs to support it, not just the leaders,” said one official. “At the end of the day, the public is part of the process. The leaders need to have public support for going forward with this.” 
    The officials who spoke with Haaretz could not share specific details about the plan, which they said is close to being finalized. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will travel to the region next week with Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East peace process, to discuss the plan with leaders in Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and possibly also other countries.
    The Trump administration’s main foreign policy focus this week, of course, was the summit in Singapore in which Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The officials who spoke with Haaretz said the summit proves that Trump’s unusual approach to foreign policy is working, adding that “this event should give hope to people in the Middle East that things can get better.”
    One official contended that “this event shows how suddenly and unexpectedly things can change, and how intractable positions can potentially be softened and modified. The members of our peace team have a lot of experience as negotiators. We know that positions can change. We know that views can be morphed.”
    The officials said a Middle East peace deal is still a top priority for Trump. “The president has the same level of dedication on this issue as he does on the Korean issue,” they maintained. 
    When asked if it is possible that following his summit with Kim, Trump will lose interest in an Israeli-Palestinian deal since he no longer needs a foreign policy achievement to present to the American public, one official used a metaphor from Trump’s real estate career to explain why he’s convinced that that’s not going to happen.
    “The president built Trump Tower, and then what did he do after that? He went and he built another five Trump Towers,” the official said.
    “He didn’t just stop with one.”


  • Middle Eastern Monarchs Look at the Trumps and See Themselves – Foreign Policy
    http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/05/28/middle-eastern-monarchs-look-at-the-trumps-and-see-themselves

    It seems that in the span of not quite two decades, the guy [George Nader] who ran a small, likely not profitable, but influential policy magazine become a conduit between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan of the Abu Dhabi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Donald Trump’s closest inner circle, both after, and — crucially for special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing criminal investigation — before Trump’s election as U.S. president.

    Nader’s story is yet another example of the sleaze, greed, and influence-peddling that has come to seem ordinary in Trump-era Washington. But it also offers a view into a more extraordinary and unprecedented problem: a decision by some of America’s closest allies in the Middle East to leverage their financial resources in common cause with a bunch of #ganefs to influence U.S. foreign policy. It is a problem that can be traced back, in ways that haven’t generally been understood, to Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner and his mobile phone.

    #riyalpolitik

    ganef - Wiktionary
    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ganef

    From Yiddish גנבֿ‎ (ganef), from Hebrew גנב‎ (ganáv, “thief”).


  • MBS : les Palestiniens doivent accepter le « plan de paix » étasunien ou « la fermer »

    https://www.axios.com/saudi-crown-prince-tells-jewish-leaders-palestinians-should-take-what-they-ar

    In a closed-door meeting with heads of Jewish organizations in New York on March 27th, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) gave harsh criticism of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), according to an Israeli foreign ministry cable sent by a diplomat from the Israeli consulate in New York, as well three sources — Israeli and American — who were briefed about the meeting.

    The bottom line of the crown prince’s criticism: Palestinian leadership needs to finally take the proposals it gets from the U.S. or stop complaining.

    According to my sources, the Saudi Crown Prince told the Jewish leaders:

    In the last several decades the Palestinian leadership has missed one opportunity after the other and rejected all the peace proposals it was given. It is about time the Palestinians take the proposals and agree to come to the negotiations table or shut up and stop complaining.
    — MBS

    MBS also made two other points on the Palestinian issue during the meeting:

    He made clear the Palestinian issue was not a top priority for the Saudi government or Saudi public opinion. MBS said Saudi Arabia “has much more urgent and important issues to deal with” like confronting Iran’s influence in the region.

    Regardless of all his criticism of the Palestinian leadership, MBS also made clear that in order for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to normalize relations with Israel there will have to be significant progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

    What we’re hearing: A source who was briefed on the meeting told me the attendees were stunned when they heard the Saudi Crown Prince comments on the Palestinian issue. “People literally fell off their chairs,” the source said.

    Why it matters: In the last year, the Trump administration has been drafting a plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace. The White House peace team, led by Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt, has basically finished drafting the plan and is discussing how and when to launch it.

    Launching the plan will be difficult because of the Palestinians have been boycotting the White House since Trump’s December 6th Jerusalem announcement.

    In the last year, Kushner managed to get MBS on board in trying to move the peace process forward, and get the Arab world to urge the Palestinians to enter peace talks with Israel on the basis of the U.S. peace plan.

    #Arabie_saoudite #Palestine #Israel #dirigeants_arabes #indigents_arabes « #monde_arabe »

    • « Qu’ils négocient ou qu’ils ferment leur bouche » : ce que MBS pense des Palestiniens
      Devant des responsables juifs américains, en mars dernier, le prince héritier saoudien a vivement critiqué la posture de la direction palestinienne
      MEE | 30 avril 2018
      http://www.middleeasteye.net/fr/reportages/que-les-palestiniens-n-gocient-ou-quils-ferment-leur-bouche-ce-que-mb

      « Au cours des dernières décennies, les dirigeants palestiniens ont manqué les opportunités, les unes après les autres, et rejeté toutes les propositions de paix qui leur ont été faites. Il est temps que les Palestiniens acceptent les propositions, qu’ils viennent à la table des négociations ou alors qu’ils ferment leur bouche et qu’ils arrêtent de se plaindre. » Cette déclaration n’émane pas d’un faucon israélien ou d’un leader de la droite dure de Washington. L’auteur de ces critiques n’est autre que Mohammed ben Salmane, prince héritier du royaume d’Arabie saoudite.
      C’est la chaîne israélienne Channel 10 et son journaliste Barak Ravid qui rapportent les détails d’une rencontre du prince saoudien avec des responsables d’organisations juives aux États-Unis le 27 mars dernier. MBS a alors rencontré des représentants de l’American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), des Fédérations juives d’Amérique du Nord, du Comité des juifs américains, de la Ligue anti-diffamation et de l’Ordre indépendant du B’nai B’rith à New York. (…)


  • Netanyahu: Trump and I talked ’Iran, #Iran, Iran,’ we discussed Palestinians for 15 minutes
    Noa Landau | Mar. 5, 2018- Haaretz.Com
    https://www.haaretz.com/misc/article-print-page/.premium-netanyahu-trump-and-i-talked-iran-palestinians-barely-came-up-1.58

    Despite a downgrade of the security clearance of Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, Netanyahu reportedly said that Kushner was present during a luncheon. “We did not deal with his issue, not even a word,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying in a reference to Kushner’s security clearance. “I don’t want to go into it. He participated in the broad discussion."

    #Palestine #Etats-Unis #Israel


  • Emails show UAE-linked effort against Tillerson - BBC News
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-43281519

    The BBC has obtained leaked emails that show a lobbying effort to get US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sacked for failing to support the United Arab Emirates against regional rival Qatar.
    Major Trump fundraiser and UAE-linked businessman Elliott Broidy met Mr Trump in October 2017 and urged him to sack Mr Tillerson, the emails reveal.
    In other emails, he calls the top US diplomat “a tower of Jello”, “weak” and says he “needs to be slammed”.
    Mr Broidy says Qatar hacked his emails.
    “We have reason to believe this hack was sponsored and carried out by registered and unregistered agents of Qatar seeking to punish Mr Broidy for his strong opposition to state-sponsored terrorism,” a spokesman for the businessman said.
    He said some of the emails “may have been altered” but did not elaborate.
    Saudi Arabia, UAE and a number of Arab countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in June 2017 over its alleged support for terrorism, a claim which it denies. The unprecedented move was seen as a major split between powerful Gulf countries, who are also close US allies.
    Qatari royal ’held against will’ in UAE
    Nations silent on Tillerson Qatar blockade plea
    The BBC has asked the Qatar embassy in Washington for a response to the accusations.
    Mr Broidy’s defence company Circinus has hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts with the UAE, according to the New York Times newspaper.
    He had recently returned from the UAE when he met Mr Trump at the White House in October.
    What did the emails say?
    According to a memorandum he prepared of the meeting, Mr Broidy urged continued support of US allies the UAE and Saudi Arabia and advised Mr Trump against getting involved in last year’s row with Qatar.
    Mr Broidy called Qatar “a television station with a country” - alluding to broadcaster Al Jazeera - and said it was doing “nothing positive”, according to the emails.
    He said he touted a regional counter-terrorism force being set up by the UAE that his company was involved with, and suggested that the US president “sit down” with Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and a top UAE military commander.
    “I offered that MBZ [the crown prince] is available to come to the US very soon and preferred a quiet meeting in New York or New Jersey. President Trump agreed that a meeting with MBZ was a good idea,” Mr Broidy wrote in an email.
    He also said he advised the president on Mr Tillerson - who was “performing poorly and should be fired at a politically convenient time”.
    Mr Tillerson had criticised the blockade of Qatar and called for it to be eased, in comments that contrasted with Mr Trump’s support for the move.
    Mr Tillerson spent most of the first year in his position embattled and weakened.
    Last autumn, in a rare move for the soft-spoken secretary, the state department held a press conference in which Mr Tillerson pushed back against reports he had called the president “a moron”.
    Who did Mr Broidy email?
    He emailed a detailed account of his meeting with the president to George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman with decades of experience serving as an interlocutor between the Middle East and Washington.
    Sources familiar with the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US election and possible links between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, tell the BBC that Mr Nader has become a person of interest and has been questioned in recent weeks.
    Investigators questioned Mr Nader and other witnesses on whether there were any efforts by the Emiratis to buy political influence by directing money to Mr Trump’s presidential campaign, according to a New York Times report.

    What else was in the leaked emails?
    Mr Broidy also detailed a separate sit-down with Mr Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, according to the emails.
    After Mr Broidy criticised Qatar extensively to Mr Kushner, “Jared’s demeanour was very passive and pleasant but he seemed to not want to engage on this issue,” he wrote to Mr Nader.
    Kushner Companies - owned by the family of Jared Kushner - is reported to have in April 2017 sought financing from Qatar for its flagship property at 666 5th Avenue, New York.
    However, Mr Kushner has maintained that he has had no role in his family’s business since joining the White House last year.
    Has anyone else claimed to have been hacked?
    UAE ambassador to Washington Yousef al-Otaiba - who in diplomatic circles is known as the most effective and influential ambassador in Washington - has himself been a recent victim of email hacking.
    It’s well known in Washington that Mr Otaiba and Mr Kushner have enjoyed close relationship.
    Industry experts looking at both hacks have drawn comparisons between the two, showing reason to suspect links to Qatar.
    “This is rinse and repeat on Otaiba,” a source familiar with the hack told the BBC.
    The UAE has also been known to use similar tactics, and was accused of hacking Qatari government websites prior to the blockade, according to the FBI.


  • Report says U.S. officials are concerned that Israel and others attempted to manipulate Kushner

    Israel, China, the UAE and Mexico tried to sway Kushner to promote their interests, a report claims amid news that Trump’s son-in-law and adviser was stripped of his interim security clearance

    Amir Tibon (Washington) Feb 28, 2018

    WASHINGTON– Officials in the U.S. government and intelligence community are concerned that foreign governments, including the Israeli government, were trying to “manipulate” Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, according to a report published on Tuesday by the Washington Post. The report stated that officials from Israel, China, the UAE and Mexico had all discussed how they can use Kushner’s business interests to influence his foreign policy work in the White House.
    According to the report, Trump’s National Security Adviser, General H.R. McMaster, “learned that Kushner had contacts with foreign officials that he did not coordinate through the National Security Council or officially report.” It also stated that “Officials in the White House were concerned that Kushner was ’naive and being tricked’ in conversations with foreign officials - some of whom said they wanted to deal only with Kushner directly and not more experienced personnel”.
    Top secret downgrade
    The report comes amidst tensions in the White House over the issue of Kushner’s access to top secret intelligence. Politico reported on Tuesday that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has decided to strip Kushner of his access to certain areas of sensitive intelligence, in light of the fact that Kushner has failed to obtain permanent security clearance from the U.S. intelligence community.
    The Washington Post report concerning foreign governments’ alleged attempt to influence the senior White House aide could be seen as a possible explanation for Kushner’s difficulties in receiving his security clearance.
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    A lawyer representing Kushner said in reply to the report: “We will not respond substantively to unnamed sources peddling second-hand hearsay with rank speculation that continue to leak inaccurate information.”

    A spokesperson for the White said that General McMaster has “the highest regard” for Kushner and that both of them work closely together on foreign policy issues.
    The Israeli Embassy in Washington refused to comment.
    The report did not contain details about the alleged attempts by the foreign governments, including the Israeli government, to “manipulate” Kushner based on his business interests.
    One of Kushner’s main areas of responsibility in the White House is leading the administration’s Middle East peace team, which is working on an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.


  • Yemen How the Houthis Became “Shi‘a” | Middle East Research and Information Project

    http://www.merip.org/mero/mero012718

    by Anna Gordon , Sarah E. Parkinson | published January 27, 2018
    On December 4, 2017, Houthi rebels in Yemen killed ‘Ali ‘Abdallah Salih, their erstwhile ally and the country’s former president. It was a dramatic reversal: Parts of the national army loyal to Salih had fought alongside the Houthis for nearly three years in Yemen’s ongoing civil war. But shortly before his death Salih turned against the Houthis, making overtures to their opponents, the Yemeni administration-in-exile led by President ‘Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and its backers in the wealthy Gulf Arab monarchies, primarily Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In remarks broadcast on Saudi-funded satellite channels on December 3, Salih accused the Houthis of intolerable “recklessness.” If the Saudis and Emiratis were to lift their blockade on Yemen, he continued, then “we will turn the page.” The next day, Salih was killed.

    The Houthis’ history with Salih is far more complex than this concluding episode would imply. Until Salih’s ouster from the presidency in late 2011, it was his regime that had confronted Houthi rebellions, in six rounds of combat beginning in 2004. But another legacy of the wars of the 2000s is particularly salient for its influence upon global understanding of the current, catastrophic Yemen conflict—the Salih regime’s invention of the claim that the Houthis are “Iranian-backed Shi‘a.”

    False Coding
    The first problem with calling the Houthis “Shi‘a” is that, technically, they are not Shi‘a, at least not in the way that most people understand contemporary Shi‘ism. Shi‘ism is distinguished from Sunnism, the other main branch of Islam, primarily by the Shi‘i belief that Muhammad’s rightful heirs as religio-political leaders, or Imams, of the Muslim community are the Prophet’s son-in-law ‘Ali and his progeny. Most Houthis are Zaydis, that is, members of a Shi‘i denomination that split off from the main body in the eighth century because of a dispute over recognition of the Fifth Imam. Zaydis do not believe, as most Shi‘a do, that the imamate must be handed down through a particular line of ‘Ali’s descendants. Today about 85 percent of Shi‘a worldwide, including the vast majority of Iranian and Iraqi Shi‘a, and the Shi‘a of Lebanon, follow what is called Twelver Shi‘ism: They believe that the Twelfth Imam was the last legitimate successor to Muhammad and ‘Ali, and that one day he will return from occultation, or hiding, to restore just rule and battle evil. Erasing the distinction between Zaydis and Twelvers—something akin to calling the Copts Roman Catholics—may not seem terribly consequential. But it has profound political consequences for the war in Yemen, given evolving alliance structures and the ambitions of regional powers, particularly the Saudis.


  • With Bannon banished from Trump World, pro-Israel hard-liners pin their hopes on Pence

    Far-right U.S. Jewish Republicans believed the one-time Breitbart supremo had their back, but his fall from grace shifts their focus to the vice president and a very unlikely blast from the recent past

    Allison Kaplan Sommer Jan 16, 2018

    Few American Jews shed tears at the downfall of Steve Bannon, whose humiliation was made complete Tuesday when he stepped down from Breitbart News following his ugly estrangement from President Donald Trump – confirmed by the insulting new nickname of Sloppy Steve.
    skip - Donald Trump tweet
    The catalyst for his fate were his uncensored remarks in Michael Wolffs White House tell-all book, Fire and Fury, alienating Trump and then, fatally, the Mercers (Bannons arch-conservative financial backers who bankrolled both Breitbart and his endeavors to become a renegade Republican kingmaker.)
    The vast majority of Americas overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic Jews viewed Bannon as either an anti-Semite or an anti-Semite enabler whose conspiratorial references to demonic global financiers awakened and emboldened white supremacists. His oft-quoted description of Breitbart as the platform for the alt-right white nationalist movement confirmed such views.
    But for the minority of staunchly hard-line, pro-Israel Jews (and evangelical Christians) who support Israels settlement enterprise, oppose a Palestinian state and any form of territorial compromise, Bannon was an important force in the White House.
    For this group, his out-of-the-box positions on Israel far outweighed any threats the views of the Trump-voting, alt-right fan base from which he drew his influence might pose.
    Notably, it was Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America – who invited Bannon to address his organizations annual gala last November – who was the sole loyalist quoted as willing to speak up for Bannon in a lengthy Politico piece on Sunday. Klein said: If there is anyone, like Bannon, who is a strong supporter of Israel and a strong fighter against anti-Semitism and that person ends up having less influence on the administration, that is something that would sadden me.

    In Fire and Fury, the extent to which Bannons position on Israel matched hard-liners like Klein was described in detail. The book not only revealed that Trumps then-strategic adviser planned to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Day One after entering the White House, but, moreover, had an extreme and highly unorthodox approach to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Let Jordan take the West Bank, let Egypt take Gaza, says Bannon in the book. Let them deal with it. Or sink trying.
    He then claimed that both GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were all in on his plans.
    Taken as a whole, it is a depiction of an extreme right-wing cabal, one that could find its place on the right fringes of Likud, that has been guiding if not running [President Donald] Trumps Middle East policies, Haaretzs Chemi Shalev wrote. Shalev described it as an axis that dominated Trumps Middle East policies during his first year in office. It is an alliance that Netanyahu appears to have cultivated, with the assistance, or at the direction, of his Las Vegas benefactor, Adelson. All three operate under the premise ascribed to Bannon that the further right you were, the more correct you were on Israel.
    This hard-line trio of influence presumably acted as a counterweight against the more pragmatic former military men in the White House – most prominently National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, but also former Secretary of Homeland Security and current Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis – whom, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the far right privately scorn as Arabists who are soft on Israel. It was also a bulwark against Trumps fantasies of making the ultimate deal, which they believed were being cultivated by Bannons nemesis – Trumps son-in-law and aide, Jared Kushner.
    Bannons banishment from the White House, and now his political self-immolation and disappearance from Trumps circle of influence, comes as a deep disappointment to those who embraced and celebrated his outlook and that of satellite foreign policy Bannonites like Sebastian Gorka.
    Sad, tragic and disappointing, one pro-Trump Republican on the Jewish far right told me, asking not to be identified by name. Israels lost a really important voice.
    With that sadness comes concern over the increased influence of the generals, as well as Javanka (Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump), on Middle East policy. The Jewish Trump supporter said he believes the presidents son-in-law has got his head in a very dark place when it comes to this peace thing. I think Jared is really wrong on this whole peace plan and can only do damage, he noted.
    But the hard-liners are still hopeful, attributing their optimism that the Trump administration will avoid any Kushner-fueled peace attempts to three factors.
    First, and most prominently, their hopes are pinned on Vice President Mike Pence – who will visit Israel on January 22-23 – and the evangelical Christian base he represents. Rejecting the portrayal of a sidelined Pence in Wolffs book, they call him a powerful player, particularly on Israel.

    U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, January 9, 2018. JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS
    Clear evidence for this, they argue, lies in the fact that last months declaration of recognizing Jerusalem as Israels capital and the plan for an embassy move came after Bannon left the White House. It was Pence and the evangelicals – not Adelson, Netanyahu and Bannon – who ultimately got something done, and they are the ones who will have Israels back in the post-Bannon era.
    Secondly, there are the Palestinians themselves, who called the Jerusalem declaration a kiss of death to the two-state solution.
    Third, there is Trump himself. Much as the president is portrayed as an utterly transactional empty vessel, his Jewish supporters dont believe his views were artificially foisted on him by Bannon, but instead come from his own core beliefs. It was the president himself who wanted to move the embassy at the very beginning of his administration, they say, and it was Netanyahu himself who told Trump it would be better to wait.
    skip - Conor Powell tweet
    Return of the Mooch?
    If there is now a vacuum in the conduit between the far-right Klein/Adelson crowd and the Trump White House, one figure is clearly eager to fill it. Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci is not only different from Bannon – as slick and public as Bannon is unkempt and secretive – but he is also Bannons nemesis.

    In this July 2017 file photo, Anthony Scaramucci blows a kiss after answering questions during the press briefing.Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
    Call it a coincidence, but on the same day Bannon departed from Breitbart, it was also announced that Scaramucci – who spent the day dancing on his grave – would be a keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas. The RJC confab is set for early February at Adelsons Venetian hotel and casino. In the past, ZOAs Klein has described Scaramucci as being supportive of Israel in the ZOA way, not in the mainstream Jewish way.
    Scaramucci has made a point of cozying up to the Adelson-backed Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. It was at a Boteach Hanukkah party that Scaramucci reportedly took a verbal detour from recounting his trip to Israel to insult Bannon, allegedly calling the former Trump aide messianic and a loser, warning that Hell be a stalwart defender of Israel until hes not. Thats how this guy operates. Ive seen this guy operate. He was a stalwart defender of me until it became better for him not to be.
    In the end, it was not his failure to defend Israel that proved to be Bannons undoing. It was his failure to defend Donald Trump.

    Allison Kaplan Sommer
    Haaretz Correspondent

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  • Israel Digs a Grave for the Two-State Solution -
    Editorial The New York Times

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/05/opinion/israel-two-state-solution.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=sto

    Encouraged by supportive signals from Washington and disarray in Israeli politics, Israeli right-wing politicians are enacting measures that could deal a death blow to the creation of a separate state for Palestinians, the so-called two-state solution that offers what tiny chance there is for a peace settlement. That hope, however remote, should not be allowed to die.

    Israeli nationalists have long sought a single Jewish state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has paid lip service to supporting the two-state solution, he has continually undermined it. Palestinians have also acted in ways that thwarted their goal of an independent state.

    The United States, Europe and a majority of Israelis have opposed such territorial expansion into the West Bank and supported a negotiated peace.

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    But President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, in contravention of longstanding American policy, followed by United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley’s threat to cut off aid to Palestinian refugees, were seen by the right-wingers as an opening to end any pretense of supporting the two-state idea.

    These hard-liners, taking advantage of the political damage that corruption investigations have done to Mr. Netanyahu, have staked out positions to the right of his. The prime minister was not even present at a meeting of the Likud leadership that for the first time urged the formal annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The Israeli Parliament, meanwhile, voted to require a two-thirds majority vote for any legislation ceding parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinians, raising an obstacle to any land-for-peace deal involving Jerusalem.

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    This should be the moment for the United States, Israel’s strongest supporter in the world, to step in and say no, that path can lead only to greater strife and isolation for Israel. But it is evident that for Mr. Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is supposed to be leading the president’s Middle East efforts, diplomacy is a one-sided affair.

    Furthermore, the threat to cut the substantial American contribution to the United Nations agency that supports more than five million Palestinian refugees and their descendants in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria would foment a humanitarian crisis in refugee camps, threaten continuing Palestinian security cooperation with Israel and prompt more censure around the world.

    Mr. Trump still claims he is in favor of peace talks. All he has done so far has been to create greater obstacles and fan the ardor of extremists on both sides. If he was really interested in a Middle East deal, as he claimed in his campaign, this would be a good time to reaffirm America’s longstanding commitment to a two-state solution and tell the Israeli right that it is going too far.


  • Israel lobby billionaire praises Kushner for collusion with Netanyahu | The Electronic Intifada | Ali Abunimah Power Suits 4 December 2017
    https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/israel-lobby-billionaire-praises-kushner-collusion-netanyahu

    President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner received public praise on Sunday from a billionaire Israel lobby financier for his possibly illegal attempts to derail a UN Security Council vote condemning Israel’s settlements a year ago.

    This came as news broke that Kushner failed to disclose in government ethics filings his role as director of a family foundation that funded Israeli settlements.

    Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump, is in charge of efforts to revive the so-called peace process.

    New details of Kushner’s Saudi-backed plan reported Sunday confirm that it would require nothing less than a complete capitulation by the Palestinians to Israel’s demands, leaving them with a state in name only.
    “Nothing illegal”

    On Sunday, Kushner appeared at the Saban Forum, an Israel lobby conference at Washington’s Brookings Institution, financed by Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban.

    Saban and Kushner sat on stage for what was billed as a “keynote conversation.”

    “You’ve been in the news the last few days, to say the least. But you’ve been in the news about an issue that I personally want to thank you for, because you and your team were taking steps to try and get the United Nations Security Council to not go along with what ended up being an abstention by the US,” Saban said in the exchange in the video at the top of this article.

    “As far as I know there was nothing illegal there but I think that this crowd and myself want to thank you for making that effort.”

    “Thank you,” Kushner responded.
    (...)

    “Peace” plan

    Given the systematic lack of accountability for senior US officials, dating back decades, there is little reason to expect that anything short of an indictment will remove Kushner from his role.

    And the more that is known about the “peace plan” he is helping forge, the clearer it is that Kushner and his colleagues are simply mouthpieces for Netanyahu.

    On Sunday, The New York Times characterized the as yet unpublished plan in the following terms: “The Palestinians would get a state of their own but only noncontiguous parts of the West Bank and only limited sovereignty over their own territory. The vast majority of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which most of the world considers illegal, would remain. The Palestinians would not be given East Jerusalem as their capital and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.”

    These were the elements reportedly conveyed to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman last month with an ultimatum that he accept them or resign.

    These ideas are so far below what any Palestinian could ever accept that even Abbas was “alarmed and visibly upset” by the Saudi proposal, according to an official from his Fatah party cited by the Times.

    The White House has denied that its plan has been finalized, and Saudi Arabia denied it supported such positions, according to the Times.

    But the newspaper provides ample reason to doubt those denials, noting that: “the main points of the Saudi proposal as told to Mr. Abbas were confirmed by many people briefed on the discussions between Mr. Abbas and Prince Mohammad, including Mr. [Ahmad] Yousef, the senior Hamas leader; Ahmad Tibi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Parliament; several Western officials; a senior Fatah official; a Palestinian official in Lebanon; a senior Lebanese official; and a Lebanese politician, among others.”

    The Saudis have been pressuring the Palestinians to capitulate to Israel evidently to clear the Palestinian cause out of the way so that the growing Saudi-Israeli alliance aimed at Iran can be brought fully into the open.

    One element of the plan reportedly includes giving Palestinians a capital in the village of Abu Dis, instead of Jerusalem.

    This is a revival of a 1990s fantasy in which the small village would be renamed “al-Quds” and declared the “capital of Palestine,” while the real city of Jerusalem is swallowed up by Israel.

    Israel currently uses part of Abu Dis as an illegal garbage dump.

    #Flynn #Kushner #Mueller

    • L’étrange cas de Jared Kushner et du lobby israélien
      Richard Silverstein | 4 décembre 2017
      http://www.middleeasteye.net/fr/opinions/l-trange-cas-de-jared-kushner-et-du-lobby-isra-lien-1758255038

      Il était clair que l’objectif de toute la hiérarchie, à commencer par Netanyahou et Trump, était de détruire la résolution, qui bénéficiait du soutien tacite de l’administration Obama.

      Bien que les États-Unis se soient finalement abstenus, l’administration Obama n’a manifestement rien fait pour arrêter la résolution – ce qui signifie qu’elle l’a tacitement soutenue. Par le passé, elle avait en réalité opposé son veto à des propositions pratiquement identiques du Conseil de sécurité.

      L’abstention était alors une initiative assez audacieuse de la part des États-Unis. Par conséquent, en intervenant pour tuer la résolution, Kushner a franchi la ligne entre le fait d’utiliser son droit de s’exprimer librement sur la politique du gouvernement garanti par le Premier Amendement et le fait de subvertir la politique étrangère officielle des États-Unis. Il s’agit là d’un terrain juridique encore inexploré.

      L’inclusion de la loi Logan dans une liste d’accusations contre Kushner ne serait pas seulement un fait nouveau : cela avertirait en effet le lobby israélien qu’une ligne rouge a été franchie. Et qu’une fois que cette ligne est franchie, on a affaire à un comportement criminel. Ce serait là une première. Un coup de semonce choquant qui ferait vaciller le lobby.

      Cependant, on peut douter que Mueller fasse de la loi Logan un élément clé de sa stratégie juridique. Lorsque l’on poursuit un président des États-Unis, on préfère ne pas s’essayer à des théories juridiques non éprouvées ou ésotériques.


  • Has Kushner given Riyadh carte blanche? - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

    https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/en/originals/2017/11/jared-kushner-saudi-arabia-carte-blanche-destablize-region.amp.html

    WASHINGTON — Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have found themselves at odds of late with US State Department diplomats and Defense Department leadership, taking provocative actions by blockading Qatar; summoning Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Riyadh earlier this month, where he abruptly resigned; and blockading since Nov. 6 major Yemeni ports from desperately needed humanitarian aid shipments in retaliation for a Nov. 4 Houthi missile strike targeting Riyadh’s international airport.

    The State and Defense departments have urged Riyadh and Abu Dhabi to ease their pressure campaigns on Qatar and Lebanon and improve aid access in Yemen to avert catastrophic famine. But Saudi and Emirati officials have suggested to US diplomatic interlocutors that they feel they have at least tacit approval from the White House for their hard-line actions, in particular from President Donald Trump and his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who Trump has tasked with leading his Middle East peace efforts.

    Kushner has reportedly established a close rapport with UAE Ambassador to the United States Yousef al-Otaiba, as well as good relations with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with whom Kushner met in Riyadh in late October.

    But growing US bureaucratic dismay at perceived Saudi/Emirati overreach, as well as Kushner’s mounting legal exposure in the Russia investigations, has many veteran US diplomats, policymakers and lobbyists urging regional players to be cautious about basing their foreign policy on any perceived green light, real or not, from the Kushner faction at the White House. They warn the mixed messages could cause Gulf allies to miscalculate and take actions that harm US interests. And they worry US diplomacy has often seemed hesitant, muted and delayed in resolving recent emerging crises in the Middle East, in part because of the perceived divide between the State Department and the Department of Defense on one side and the White House on the other, making US mediation efforts less effective and arguably impeding US national security interests.


  • Case of Missing Lebanese Prime Minister Stirs Middle East Tensions - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/10/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-lebanon-france-macron.html

    Now analysts and diplomats are scrambling to figure out what the latest developments mean, whether they are connected and whether, as some analysts fear, they are part of a buildup to a regional war.

    Mr. Hariri, until he announced his resignation on Saturday, had shown no signs of planning to do so.

    Hours later, on Saturday evening, a missile fired from Yemen came close to Riyadh before being shot down. Saudi Arabia later blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the missile, suggesting that they had aided the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen to fire it.

    Before the world had a chance to absorb this news, the ambitious and aggressive Saudi Arabian crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the arrest of hundreds of Saudis — including 11 princes, government ministers and some of the kingdom’s most prominent businessmen — in what was either a crackdown on corruption, as Saudi officials put it, or a purge, as outside analysts have suggested.

    It then emerged that the week before, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, who has been sent on missions both to Israel and Saudi Arabia, had visited Riyadh on a previously undisclosed trip and met until the early morning hours with the crown prince. The White House has not announced what they discussed but officials privately said that they were meeting about the administration’s efforts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

    On Monday, Saudi officials said they considered the missile from Yemen an act of war by Iran and Lebanon, and on Thursday the kingdom rattled Lebanon by ordering its citizens to evacuate.

    No one expects Saudi Arabia, which is mired in a war in Yemen, to start another war itself. But Israel, which fought a war with Hezbollah in 2006, has expressed increasing concern about Hezbollah’s growing arsenal on its northern border.

    On Friday, Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said that Saudi Arabia had asked Israel to attack Lebanon, after essentially kidnapping Mr. Hariri.

    Moreover, Israel’s war planners predict that the next war with Hezbollah may be catastrophic, particularly if it lasts more than a few days. Hezbollah now has more than 120,000 rockets and missiles, Israel estimates, enough to overwhelm Israeli missile defenses.

    Analysts say a new war in the region is unlikely but some have warned that the increased tensions could provoke an economic crisis or even start a war accidentally. Miscalculations have started wars before, as in the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

    Experts caution that Israel is often only a mistake or two from being drawn into combat.

    “It’s a dangerous situation now,” said Amos Harel, the military reporter for Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper. “It only takes one provocation, another reaction, and it can get all of a sudden completely out of control. And when you add the Saudis, who evidently want to attack Iran and are looking for action, it gets even more complicated.”

    #Guerre #Moyen-Orient #Géopolitique


  • Israel-Palestine. Trump is wasting his envoys’ time - Haaretz Editorial

    Another round of pointless visits to Israel and the PA and empty words that we’ve heard endless times before will not resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

    Haaretz Editorial Aug 28, 2017
    read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/editorial/1.809457

    The visit to the Middle East of a delegation from Washington, led by U.S. President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, was met by complete apathy in Israel, from both the political establishment and from the public and the media. So, too, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with Kushner. After the meeting on Thursday, the two men thanked each other for the “effort” and reiterated the mutual American and Israeli “commitment” to “peace.”
    This indifference to the visit by both right and left is understandable. After all, “efforts,” “commitment” and “peace” are nice words, but they aren’t enough to convince anyone that there’s something substantial on the negotiating table.
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is also frustrated by America’s behavior. “I’ve met with [Donald] Trump’s envoys around 20 times since the beginning of his term as U.S. president,” said Abbas. “Every time they repeatedly stressed to me how much they believe and are committed to a two-state solution and a halt to construction in the settlements. I have pleaded with them to say the same thing to Netanyahu, but they refrained. They said they would consider it but then they didn’t get back to me.”
    Abbas’ frustration is also understandable. Another round of pointless visits and empty words that we’ve heard endless times before will not resolve the conflict. It may be fine for those who want to merely manage the conflict and are satisfied with just preserving the security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but it’s not enough for anyone seeking a peace agreement or who dreams of two states for two peoples.
    Anyone who follows Netanyahu’s declarations can discern that even he has stopped believing in Trump’s commitment to a political agreement. Otherwise he wouldn’t have allowed himself to express his hawkish views on the Palestinian issue as he did at a rally two weeks ago, at which he declared his opposition to a Palestinian state and to any withdrawal from the West Bank.
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    If Trump is indeed interested in advancing “the ultimate deal” or a “peace deal” in the Middle East, as he claimed immediately upon being elected, he must back this declaration of intent with real demands from both sides and with a public presentation of an outline agreement, including a map.
    Meanwhile, the U.S. administration hasn’t even expressed public support for a settlement freeze. Trump has been president for less than a year, but the conflict is old, as is the peace “process.” The time for processes is over. It’s time to act. If Trump isn’t capable of doing so, he shouldn’t waste his envoys’ time.


  • Kushner reportedly told Abbas: Stopping settlement construction impossible, it would topple Netanyahu - Palestinians - Haaretz.com
    http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/palestinians/1.809057

    A U.S. delegation headed by President Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas this week that “stopping settlement construction is impossible because it will cause the collapse of the Netanyahu government,” according to diplomatic sources who spoke to international Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat. 

    The U.S. delegation, including envoy Jason Greenblatt and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell, met with Abbas on Thursday during their regional trip aimed at kickstarting peace negotiations

    #arnaque pseudo #processus_de_paix #Palestine


  • Jewish Trump Staff Silent on His Defense of Rally With Anti-Semitic Marchers - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/16/us/politics/trump-jewish-neo-nazi-jared-kushner-ivanka.html

    WASHINGTON — Jewish members of President Trump’s administration remained largely silent Wednesday after Mr. Trump came to the defense of nationalist and right-wing protesters in Charlottesville, Va., who had chanted anti-Semitic slogans and demeaned the president’s Jewish son-in-law.


  • How the Trump Administration Broke the State Department | Foreign Policy
    http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/07/31/how-the-trump-administration-broke-the-state-department

    The office furniture started appearing weeks ago.

    Employees at the State Department couldn’t help but notice the stacks of cubicles lined up in the corridor of the seventh floor.

    For diplomats at the department, it was the latest sign of the “empire” being built by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s top aides. The cubicles are needed to accommodate dozens of outsiders being hired to work in a dramatically expanded front office that is supposed to advise Tillerson on policy.

    Foreign service officers see this expansion as a “parallel department” that could effectively shut off the secretary and his advisors from the career employees in the rest of the building. The new hires, several State officials told Foreign Policy, will be working for the policy planning staff, a small office set up in 1947 to provide strategic advice to the secretary that typically has about 20-25 people on its payroll. One senior State Department official and one recently retired diplomat told FP that Tillerson has plans to double or perhaps triple its size, even as he proposes a sweeping reorganization and drastic cuts to the State Department workforce.

    Veterans of the U.S. diplomatic corps say the expanding front office is part of an unprecedented assault on the State Department: A hostile White House is slashing its budget, the rank and file are cut off from a detached leader, and morale has plunged to historic lows. They say President Donald Trump and his administration dismiss, undermine, or don’t bother to understand the work they perform and that the legacy of decades of American diplomacy is at risk.

    • Tillerson Wants Fewer U.S. Diplomats, Fewer Meetings at U.N. Summit | Foreign Policy
      http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/07/28/tillerson-wants-fewer-u-s-diplomats-fewer-meetings-at-u-n-summit

      The State Department plans to scale back its diplomatic presence at this year’s  annual U.N. gathering of world leaders in September, a cost-saving initiative that  delivers another powerful signal that America is deepening its retreat from international diplomacy, according to four well-placed diplomatic sources.

      For more than seven decades, American presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama have attended the fall U.N. General Assembly general debate in New York to project their vision of American foreign policy to the world. They have been accompanied by a growing entourage of American diplomats, lawyers and technical experts who negotiate a wide range of issues, from nuclear arms treaties to climate change pacts and conflicts.

      President Donald Trump does plan to address other world leaders at the U.N, General Assembly, and he will be accompanied by other top advisors, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his daughter Ivanka Trump, who stopped by U.N. headquarters Friday for a private lunch with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

      But the ranks of professional diplomats, aides and officials that attend the event to promote American policy priorities on a range of issues will be thinned out. For now, it remains unclear precisely how large of a cut in U.S. staff is envisioned, but two officials said that the State Department is seeking to keep a ceiling down to about 300 people, including everyone from the President to support staff that schedule meetings and copy speeches back at the hotel.

      Last year, 347 U.S. officials were counted by the U.N. in the official American delegation, which included then President Obama and his top diplomat, John Kerry. But the full delegation, including support staff and security, was far larger, according to former U.S. officials.

      En même temps, passer de 347 à moins de 300 ne parait pas si drastique que ça…